Friday, January 23, 2009

Remembering a Friend...

These past few weeks I have been honored to remember a dear friend. I actually think of her and miss her often. Melanie's Mom asked me to write a letter to the parole board in Melanie's behalf. I struggled with my feelings and what to say. With the help of several friends this is the finished product.


To Whom It May Concern:

It is truly a difficult task to put into words all of the emotion I feel regarding the events that occurred on June 21, 1988. It is difficult to convey how this one act changed my life, but I will do my best to explain.

My name is Beth, and I want to share with you my story regarding my best friend and soul sister, Melanie Mclaughlin. When I look back at the significant people and events in my life, I list her as one of the most important facets in shaping who I am today. Melanie and I had that special bond which tied us together - one spirit to another. We did not have to hang out together every day at school. We always knew that we could seek each other out during the worst of times and the best of times. I find myself even to this day wanting to turn to her during my difficult times and to share with her my joy as well.

After high school we went our separate ways but always stayed in touch. We wrote letters often and talked by phone when we could. We cherished the times we actually got to spend with one other. Mike controlled even those times very closely; he did not allow Melanie to have friends, so it was very difficult to spend much time with her.

I remember Melanie telling me that she would have to read my letters in the bathroom so Mike would not read them. I was always so very careful with what I wrote, just in case he intercepted a letter. I had to mail letters from other friends along with mine, so Mike would not know she was communicating with anyone. It angered him to the point that Melanie had to hide any form of communication with her friends.

In August of 1987, I received a call from Melanie telling me that she wanted out of her relationship with Mike. She did not know where to go. I told her she should go home to Bishop, CA, and spend some time with her family. She was so afraid to do that because she knew that was the first place Mike would go to find her. I then told her she was welcome to stay with me for however long she needed to. She thought that was a good idea since Mike did not know where I lived. (In retrospect, I am not sure that Mike even had a clue who I was. She kept our friendship from him for fear of retribution.) Regretfully, she never took me up on my offer.
In September of 1987, I moved out of state to Hawaii but still kept in contact with Melanie. It was different by then, however. I failed to pick up on subtle changes until it was too late for Melanie. Her letters were vague and never said much of anything regarding her life. She was just full of questions about my life. Phone conversations were few and far between as neither of us could afford the bill.

I remember talking with her shortly before she was murdered and hearing her express concern in regards to the controlling, jealous behavior exhibited by her fiancé, Mike, who sits before you today. She was truly fearful at that point.

I talked to her briefly about the subject and how unhealthy it was to be in a relationship with someone who has such a state of mind. In hind sight, I wish I would have talked with her more and convinced her that she had to take action. I believe that she wanted to make changes but was too afraid to go through with them. I also firmly believe Mike knew she wanted out of their relationship and was not willing to let her go.I remember the day I got the shocking news that she had been murdered by Mike - that he had felt it necessary to shoot her not once, but twice. I was staggered by the senseless permanence of such a cowardly act. For one person to feel so powerful and not consider the value of another human being’s life is incomprehensible to me. The guilt I have carried all of these years for not insisting she leave this abusive relationship has been unbearable at times. It is difficult to write this letter and relive the feeling that I simply did not do enough to get her out of that terrible relationship with such a monster. I lived with that guilt for many, many years, and when I think of her, I can’t help but think “what if?” It was not until July of 2005 that I was able to visit Melanie at her resting place and come to peace with myself for all that she suffered.

I am still brokenhearted that I will never again have any interaction or laughter-filled conversations with Melanie. I will never be able to reminisce with my dear friend about our past, nor share any of the events that would have happened since that day she was killed. But worst of all, Melanie will never have any of the joys or day-to-day experiences that the rest of us take for granted. Her life was taken from her and she was taken from all that knew and loved her. This was not her choice! And the man who sits before you asking to be free is responsible for this very act.

I ask you, what will stop him from doing this again? He obviously does not value the gift of a human life, nor does he value his own life if he was able to shoot in cold blood the person he shared his life with. It chills me to think of him out in the world, free to prey on another innocent victim.

I ask that you keep him incarcerated so that no one else will suffer at his hands. When he chose to take Melanie’s life and when he shot her down, he took someone so precious from this earth. That very act affected many people and changed our lives forever. Our world cannot be the same again because of his selfish actions.

Sincerely,
Beth Quinney

4 comments:

Becky said...

I am so sorry you had to go through something like that. I had no idea. My heart goes out to you and to Melanie's family.

Elida said...

Thank you Beth for being so courageous in writing such a powerful letter. It's amazing how much Melanie touched so many of us during our youth. The unfortunate turns her life took still continue to impact us. Seeing her struggle and suffer to break the bonds of control & rage gave me a close-up perspective on domestic violence that to this day I use in working in mental health. It just affirms how Melanie's beautiful spirit is still with us twenty years later. God bless you for being such a wonderful friend to Melanie and so many others.

Melissa: said...

Wow... what a great letter. I keep learning more and more about how amazing and thoughtful you are. I am confident Melanie is grateful for your unending friendship and support toward her.

Tami said...

I will never forget our beautiful friend and that day will forever live with us. What a great thing you did to honor our amazing friend. To this day I still think of her every time I eat apple and peanut butter.